It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up – Vince Lombardi.
A Personal Fear
I have a fear of my phone falling into the toilet. I do not have a premise for such an occurrence, only the simulated emotions that would arise if it were to happen. Such is the catastrophic way of our mind and imagination. Fear can be irrational, but falling is realistic. Watching our daughter learn to walk is a teachable moment for me. Falling is unavoidable, especially when learning something new or working to reach a goal or see a dream come to fruition. Unfortunately, many of us fall, and instead of getting back up like a child learning to walk, we stay down. I believe we stay down because we equate falling to failing. Once we interpret falling as failing, we internalize it and call ourselves a failure. This label then propagates into other areas of life, hedging us in with imaginary limitations as fear becomes failure’s agent to dominate our lives.
What Is IT?
Worse than imagining my phone falling into the toilet is seeing our daughter Priscilla fall as she learns to walk. My immediate reaction as a father is to protect her from falling. Each time my fatherly instinct kicks in, I risk preventing her growth. Gradually, I have composed myself enough to allow her to fall and rise. Interestingly, each time she falls and rises to walk again, I notice progress. She realizes it too because she claps for herself. I wonder what would happen to our morale when after we fall and get back up, we clap for ourselves and celebrate not staying down. Why does it come naturally to a child to stand up and try again after falling when attempting to walk? What happens as we grow older and fall in life? Unlike when we were children, we tend to stay down. What have we lost in our ‘grow upness’ that we possessed as children? I believe two qualities keep us from staying down after a fall. I learned them while navigating the vicissitudes of life in 2020. Together, they form the acrostic IT.
A few years ago, I fell while heading to my car after a church service. Incentivized to avoid embarrassment, I quickly got back up (falling as a grown-up is not a pretty sight). Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough. Another parishioner noticed my fall and announced to those within earshot. Fortunately, I suffered no wounds from the fall.
Falling in life has far more reaching implications. This year, I set a goal to finish writing a book. With enthusiasm, I charged off the blocks like an athlete down a track. Heading to the second half of the manuscript, I fell into discouragement. Days turned into weeks and then to months with little to no progress. Discouragement whispered, “There is no way you can get up and finish this book.” I labeled myself a failure. Shame kicked in, which, according to Brene Brown, “corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” I saw no way out until I applied an incentive. I measured my progress in the immediate and celebrated each small step. First by word, sentence, paragraph, and then page. My goal came back into view. My zeal was reborn. Discouragement’s voice was silenced.
Seeing immediate progress is rewarding and motivating. Author James Clear observed, “The feeling of progress is one of the best feelings of all. This is true even when progress is small.” The days turned into weeks and months as I strung together a sequence of writing that has brought me near the summit of completing my manuscript. Celebrating smaller progress contributes to greater progress. Applying an incentive confirms economist and best-selling author Stephen Levitt’s observation, “An incentive is a bullet, a key; an often tiny object with the astonishing power to change a situation.”
As tensions rose this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and a hotly contested election, I learned the importance of setting the tone for my day. Setting the tone is dictated by the attitude we choose to carry. Failure to set the tone for the day relegates us to tone setters like the latest news feed or social media post. The results, anger, anxiety, fear, depression, and worry are not worth permitting these inputs to be tone setters.
Our tone affects us as well as the people we interact with. From the cashier at the grocery store to the people in our homes, our tone influences in ways we may never know. Who or what set the tone for you this year? How did it reflect in your daily outlook? How did these tone setters dictate your interaction with others?
My wife Caroline and I believe we are tone setters for our children Esther and Priscilla. We express this with constant encouragement, affirming their worth and value, appreciating and celebrating the smallest of accomplishments in a big way, and correcting with love. Leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell advises, “Set the tone for your day by treating people better than you expect to be treated by them. Be the first to smile. Express your appreciation for them. Expect the best out of them. If you act first, you will set yourself up for success.”
Final Thought: Falling, be it an infant learning to walk, or an adult pursuing a dream or goal, is inevitable. Staying down after a fall never yields the fruit of accomplishing what you set out to do. Falling is not the end. The choice to stay down or get up is yours. Though a fall is often difficult and painful, the greater pain is allowing the fall to stagnate your life and short circuit your path to destiny. By using an incentive and setting the tone for your day, you will look up, get up, and continue on the path to your destiny.
Keep on keeping on!